FORT WAYNE – Robert R. Chappuis, a World War II veteran and Michigan football star who made his home in Fort Wayne, has died. He was 89.
Chappuis was hospitalized last week after a fall, and he died Thursday at University of Michigan Hospital in the company of his family, according to the university.
Born in 1923, Chappuis grew up in Toledo and graduated from DeVilbiss High School. He went to Michigan and began his football career in 1942, but with World War II under way, he left to serve in the Army as an aerial gunner and radio operator on a B-25 bomber.
During his 21st mission over northern Italy, his plane was shot down, but he and two crewmates safely parachuted behind enemy lines. An Italian family hid them for three months until the town of Asola was freed.
After the war, I wasnt sure about playing football. I had mixed emotions about it, Chappuis told The Journal Gazette in 1977. Michigan had a lot of people back, and I wasnt sure whether or not I would make the team.
Turns out, he did.
A 185-pound halfback who passed the ball a lot, Chappuis led his team, known as the Mad Magicians, to an undefeated season and the national title in 1947. His success earned him first-team All-America honors and second place in the Heisman Trophy balloting. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
He had a two-year pro career in the All-America Football Conference, starting at quarterback for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Hornets. He stepped away from football in 1950 to enter the business world.
In 1958, he went to work in Decatur for the Central Soya Co., a food-processing firm. The next year, he moved to Fort Wayne for a job at corporate headquarters. He was named labor relations vice president in 1970, a post he held until retirement in 1982.
He is survived by his wife, Ann, four children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The Muehlig Funeral Chapel in Ann Arbor is handling his services, which have not been scheduled.